Strike 2: Even at just 6-feet tall, Colorado State point guard Isaiah Stevens has the ability to take over a basketball game. A lot of the time, he simply chooses not to.

Denver Nuggets fans know how CSU Rams fans feel. Watching Nikola Jokic take four shots against the Detroit Pistons while he’s busy racking up 16 assists in a win makes them both glad and frustrated at the same time. They want their guy to do both.

Because they can.

Stevens and Jokic are wildly different players of course, but they share the same “pass-first” mentality that puts a lot of faith (sometimes too much?) in their supporting cast. Like Joker, Stevens is a wizard with the ball in his hands, whipping passes to cutting teammates that leave observers wondering exactly how he fit the ball in such a tight window. Because of the constant cutting, a Rams team that is undersized inside somehow still finds a way to go toe-to-toe with their bigger opponents when it comes to scoring in the paint.

Sometimes it defies explanation.

When the Rams – now 15-3 and in the thick of the Mountain West title race – can play a team even on the inside, their typically solid outside game can carry them to wins in games against bigger, more athletic squads – like UNLV for example. The larger and longer Rebels came into jam packed Moby Arena last Friday and looked like they were on their way to a big road win, only to have Stevens (18 points) and wingman Nique Clifford (21 points) step up late to secure another victory for the home team. Points in the paint? UNLV had 30, CSU 28.

Stevens is now averaging better than 17 points per game this season to go along with seven assists per. He’s shooting 80% from the free throw line and a glistening 47% from 3-point range. The majority of his offensive production is coming in the second half of games. Down the stretch, he gets more aggressive driving to the rim and getting to the free throw line, where that 80% shooting tends to become a big deal.

Fortunately for the senior point guard, his typically differential play early in games has not ended up slowing down his team. While the Rams have not been blowing out many teams recently, they’ve yet to be blown out either, and with Stevens’ inclination to step up his game late, they’ve been able to win a lot more close games than they’ve lost – like the OT win over Air Force and the three-point win over UNLV last week.

The next three games will be telling for CSU. They’re at 15-4 Nevada on Wednesday night in a pivotal conference road match up before traveling again to Laramie to face always tough Wyoming on Saturday. Then they get to come home to face last year’s Final Four participant, San Diego State, in what promises to be a raucous Moby Arena.

Regardless of the opposition, big and not-as-big, Stevens is most likely going to continue to try to set up his teammates on the offensive end rather than look to score himself early on. Ram fans would love to see him blow by defenders and drain 3-pointers earlier in games, perhaps helping to provide CSU with some sort of cushion going down the stretch. That’s probably not going to happen. Ball hogging is not in his DNA. Winning is.